Sintra, Portugal, Saturday December 3, 2016

I am writing this blog entry in Lisbon, but yesterday I took a day trip by train to the nearby scenic town of Sintra, not far from here. It takes about an hour to get there, because the local train stops very frequently along the way.

There are many buildings and museums to see in Sintra in addition to the beautiful town itself. Most of the buildings are relatively modern, dating from the 1800s, the chief exception being a medieval Moorish castle on top of a hill. Because yesterday featured low-hanging overcast, the castle was unfortunately hidden by above the low clouds.. Sintra is at a higher elevation than Lisbon and therefore a bid chillier during this type of wet weather.

I rode the train to Sintra, and as I was walking from the train station into town, I passed this structure. I don’t know its purpose, but it caught my attention, because it was covered with ceramic tiles. Of course, many buildings in the Lisbon area feature ceramic tiles.

img_0448

As I walked along, a loudspeaker mounted on every lamppost was broadcasting Christmas music. In such a traditional Portuguese town, one might expect traditional Portuguese music, but the first song I heard when I got stepped out of the train station was “Jingle Bell Rock” followed by “White Christmas” and then a whole series of traditional American and British Christmas carols.

The only museum I toured was the National Palace, which was the second home to several of the kings and queens of Portugal. The room below, called the Gold Room, was  the bed chamber of King Sebastion at the end of the 16th Century, although a sign said the room itself dates from the beginning of the 15th Century. The chamber is called the Gold Room, because it was once decorated in gold, which later disappeared, as gold has a habit of doing if left unguarded.

As to the bed and the size of the room, they don’t seem impressive by modern kingly standards, but I imagine the king had a more royal bedroom in Lisbon. I’ll bet Donald Trump’s bedroom is much more elegant, and he has not yet managed to get himself crowned as king. The decorative wall tiles are impressive, however. I wouldn’t mind sleeping in a room decorated in such attractive tiles.

img_0457

This long hall was impressive for its paintings and exhibition of ceramic plates. The plates are exhibited behind glass in the case to the left of the picture. Naturally, the hall is decorated with ceramic tiles, and it has a vaulted ceiling.

img_0459

The plates below are two of the many that were displayed in the case on the left wall of the hall. It seems to be a sin profane such beautiful plates by putting food on them, but I suppose the king and queen had a right to eat from the most beautiful plates that could be obtained.

img_0460

I don’t know the purpose of the room below, which was roped off from the public. Judging from the cross at the far end, it may have been a chapel. I photographed it, because it is so beautiful. I was completely taken in by the tiles that not only cover the walls from floor to ceiling but the floor itself.

img_0463

The palace kitchen is pictured below. Given its enormous size, it must have fed a large number of people. I should have also taken a picture of the what would normally been the ceiling, because each half of the kitchen was located at the bottom of a very tall chimney.

img_0464

You can see the chimneys jutting above the palace roof in the picture below that I took after finishing the tour.

img_0471

The building shown below is the Sintra town hall. Beside the main entrance to the hall is a plaque proclaiming it to be the town hall in Portuguese, English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish.

img_0473

Despite the beauty of Sintra, after a time I had had enough of the damp chill and decided to return to Lisbon. The photograph below was my parting shot. You can see how low the clouds were. I believe there are buildings on top of that hill — perhaps it is the hill where the Moorish castle is located — but the top of the building was lost in the clouds.

img_0470

Yesterday evening at the hostel, four the the people present engaged in a drinking game. Each of the plastic cups on the table is about one fourth full of either Sangria or beer. The object is to toss a ping pong ball into one of the opposing team’s cups. If you’re successful, a member of the opposing team has to drink the contents of the cup. The team on the far side of the table is Portuguese, and on this side we have an Irishman on the left and a Scotsman on the right. Although Flynn, in the blue shirt, is shown paying his penalty, the Celtic team won every game and was ahead when I snapped the picture three cups to two.

img_0476

It is supposed to rain all day today and tomorrow. The rain started again last night. I don’t know what I will do today given the bad weather. On Tuesday I fly back to Phoenix, where rain is much rarer.

Normally I have better weather on my winter trips to Europe, but even people here say such a long stretch of rainy weather is unusual.